GW–Recaps: The Book of Joel Chapter Fourteen, Coming Back, Chapter Fifteen
Next: Denouement, Coda
Chapter Fourteen–The Quote that Frames the Chapter / Dylan Thomas, The function of posterity is to look after itself.
Joel has come to his old high school to see his former swim coach, Jon Lane. Lane is very pleased to see him and bemused by the reactions Joel’s star personal earns in the school hallways. He also has Joel check out a class, and asks Joel to return sometime. Then Joel tells him why he’s here–he wants to find out if possible what other former students Meese might have abused to help in the lawsuit. He is ready to press Lane hard to get names, but Lane is ready to do so–having suspected Meese was an abuser. Lane gives him some names.
Joel looks up the names and goes to visit one in Pennsylvania, Andrew Blake. Blake is a former addict who is now working as a counselor in a nonprofit. Wary at first, Blake ends up telling Joel more about Meese and the men Meese was with.
Mikki tells Joel Meese has been served. Meese proceeds to call Joel and demand Joel withdraw the suit. Soon after Gabriel and calls Meese and gets in a verbal war with him. Zest and Joel have a plan to get to Cody. But first, Dell shows up at Bob’s apartment. He proceeds to tell Gabriel and Joel what he knows about them–their past history in brushes with the law. Dell doesn’t necessarily believe they are innocent but he is far from feeling they are guilty. He encourages them to talk. Joel takes off but Gabriel lets him in on some details.
Joel and Zest go over to Cody’s place. Zest talks to Cody, telling him about what Meese is. Things have already been arranged to bug Cody’s calls.
Coming Back/Breaking Up–The Quote that Frames the Chapter / Eleanor Roosevelt, The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
It’s 2006. Joel has left Antony and come back to NYC. He reunites with Chris. Joel feels restless, maybe going to leave the business and work on his art. Chris doesn’t think he’s ready to make the break as yet. Isabella has work for him and sexual involvement. Joel puts a stop to that, as he’s thinking of looking for a decent LTR. He begins hanging out in his friend’s goth bar.
It’s 2008. Gabriel has tracked Joel down to a high-rise on Maiden Lane, with a client. He calls Joel out, and tells him he can’t go through this anymore with Joel’s refusing to give the relationship a chance. Although Joel protests that his taking the occasional client means nothing, Gabriel insists it’s a maneuver to keep himself distant from Gabriel. And he walks away.
Chapter Fifteen–The Quote that Frames the Chapter / Walt Whitman said, For what is the present after all, but a growth out of the past?
Walter has joined Gabriel and Chris and Joel. They overhear a phone call between Cody and Meese, and figure out that one is about to kill the other. Joel decides to go over to Meese’s house and record everything, not waiting for Zest.
Joel is able to see and hear what goes on at Meese’s house, as he hides outside. He sees Meese take some stuff to the boat and go back in the house; he decides to see what the stuff is. Then Cody arrives, and gets Meese to go to his boat at the dock outside the house. Joel, unnoticed inside, hears Cody knock Meese out and leave him at the bottom of the stairs. Looking out a window, he sees Cody about to set off an explosion. He grabs Meese’s stuff and jumps out the same window he did when 15. He’s able to avoid being injured and make it back to his car unseen. However, before he can get away, Meese crawls in the car–and he has his gun. Meese is not right–the explosion did something to his brain, but Joel decides not to try to go against the gun and fight him off. Instead, he heads for Cody’s cabin. Meese is agreeable to that, and Gabriel et al are able to hear what is going on as Joel drives and talks to the demented Meese.
Gabriel, afraid that Meese is going to kill Joel, decides to cut off the ankle monitor and make for the cabin as well. Zest is ready to take him, and Chris and Walter make off with the monitor to throw police off track. Dell calls Veronica who calls Gabriel and gets him to talk to Dell about where he’s going.
Meanwhile, Joel breaks into Cody’s cabin. Meese is still not with it, but thinks that Joel is trying to help him. Joel searches the cabin and finds Cody’s DVD collection–featuring Cody’s murders. He locates the murder of his father, and at the right moment, takes a swing at Meese. He and Meese struggle, and Joel stabs Meese’s leg with his switchblade. Joel gets out of Meese’s grip and across the room. Before Meese can act further, Cody shows up with his other big knife. Meese attempts to shoot him, but his gun is just squibs. Cody proceeds to cut Meese open. He then indicates he has to kill Joel–no hard feelings–but Gabriel is suddenly telling him to drop everything.
While the situation is under control, Gabriel has a cold moment which Joel fights against, getting Gabriel to drop whatever revenge he planned. Dell then shows up and arrests Cody. While Gabriel and Joel argue for him to look at the evidence, Dell breaks his own hand to get out of the cuffs, sets off an explosion, and while the rest of them are ducking, escapes.
But at last, while help arrives, Dell watches the video. Gabriel is exonerated.
Between the Pages:
- The most fun of this section to write was Dell casually reciting Gabriel’s and Joel’s past to them. I love to go into the past history of a character and flesh them out. It surprises me sometimes just how much trouble Gabriel has gotten into. The next was Gabriel cocking the gun at the back of Cody’s head. Gabriel is indeed ready to kill Cody, but manages to stop himself. Like Batman, Gabriel has a no-kill code. Nonetheless, the circumstances of the story have brought Gabriel to the point of considering it. Mr. Zest is with him, and perhaps the partnership they have developed has crossed a line that pushes Gabriel’s boundaries.
- I’ll admit, I feel bad for Dell. He is an open-minded professional and is willing to give Gabriel and Joel some consideration. However, the big bad has disappeared and the other is dead. That will need some spin.
Beyond the Pages:
- “I saw in a Pennsylvania paper that some accusation has been made against a guy who worked at Penn State. You can imagine how working against the system of a major university can be. This is similar.” –Joel says this to Coach Lane. At the time period of the book, the Penn State scandal was just beginning. The utter betrayal and horrid abuse to the children involved led me to mention it, as Joel can identify with how the victims feel.
Questions for Readers:
Sweet, sweet exoneration. Dell followed his instincts on Gabriel, who was right all along. Have you ever been in a situation where you were proved right? What was your feeling?
Another Rob Dougan song, Furious Angels. I like the intensity of his work, which was used for The Matrix, and provides good beats for the scenes.
Like a sentence of Death
I’ve got no options left
I’ve got nothing to show now
Extras: Deleted Scenes
And lots of of ’em! The break-up from Gabriel’s perspective. A conversation between Gabriel and Joel on where Joel was. And Joel reflecting on what Jan had encouraged him to do.
We stand looking at the loft apartments building on Maiden Lane. I stare up at the different floors with a cold fury. Which one?
Danny has the same thought. “I don’t suppose you know which one.”
I shake my head and walk across the street. The doorman watches me approaching warily.
I take out my phone and find a picture of Joel. “Is this person visiting someone in the building?”
He knows, of course. He probably knows why Joel is here. But he just glances at the photo and looks back at me with a neutral expression. “I can’t tell you that, sir.”
“Sure, I understand. Would you call the apartment and give a message to the visitor? He needs to come down.”
Now the man is nonplussed. “Sir, I’m sorry but I can’t allow—”
Danny steps in. “Nothing’s going on that’s a problem for the building or the tenants. This is a personal emergency. We aren’t going to cause trouble. He’ll want to get the message.”
He’s almost as good as me. The doorman wavers. I stop looking angry and look urgently concerned instead. Reluctantly, he goes to the house phone, dials and murmurs. Glances back and asks, “Your name, sir?”
He goes back to the phone. Longer murmur. Then he hangs up. “He’ll be down.”
I nod and thank him. “We’ll be outside.”
He shies away from us into the recesses of the building.
We cross the street again. Danny claps him on the shoulder. “I’ll let you alone. But call me if you need me.”
Ten minutes later I see Joel in the lobby, talking to the doorman. Then he comes out the door and crosses to where I am. We don’t say anything at first. Then he says, “Where’s Danny? I know he’s with you.”
Doorman must have dropped a dime. “That’s what you have to say?”
He fishes out a cigarette. I notice how well he’s dressed. So different; even his body language is different. But with his back to the building his face returns to the one I know. “You know what I am.”
I shake my head. “I know what you do. What you did, I thought this was over.”
He shrugs. “It’s complicated in a way, simple in a way. I wasn’t doing it to hurt you. It was a favor.”
“That sure as shit does not make me feel better. Honest to God, you don’t see what this does to me, do you?”
My voice cracks. I feel very strong waves of anger, sadness. For a second he frowns, reaches out to touch my arm. “It’s not that big a deal. I can explain, if you let me. I know Danny won’t want you to listen, but—”
“This isn’t about Danny. This is a betrayal of what I thought we were trying to build.”
“It’s just sex.”
“Sex isn’t the problem. Sex isn’t why I’m angry.” I turn away and lean my head against the building in back of me. “I worked on us hard so you wouldn’t have to do this. As long as you can’t see that, we can’t have a relationship. I can’t repeat this experience over and over.”
He tries to touch me again and I back away. My anger rises. My sadness rises. I can’t look at him.
“You’re taking this too seriously.” A hint in his voice that he recognizes something is wrong.
“My trust and your trust is serious. I care about you too much. I can’t let you hurt me because of that.” I have nothing else to say. I walk away and don’t look back.
I took a cab home. Danny was waiting for me. He knew I shouldn’t be alone. And I took off my jacket and lay on my bed and cried with him holding me. I cried over how Joel hurt me. How angry I was that he couldn’t trust me. That I wasn’t good enough. That his life had been so bad he couldn’t believe in me. Over the potential of our life. That I had given myself to believe this could be ‘forever’ and I knew I was going to be lonely. It was not the only time I cried.
The lonely part was the worst. Danny was there as much as possible. Veronica was too; they kept me as busy as they could until the initial hurt went away.
Danny was afraid I’d change my mind and beg him to come back. It might have happened. Out of all the past relationships I had, Joel was the only one I would have dropped my guard enough to beg. That is a deep vulnerability. His seeing me cry made him angry at Joel.
I can’t say I didn’t hear from him again between then and when he showed up outside my building last summer.
I was feeling of regret. Was I wrong? Should I have tried harder? I tried to tell myself awful things about him. He was mercenary, he was a manipulator, he was crazy. I felt guilty because it wasn’t true. Of course, if I heard the wrong song on the radio, I would lose it.
I could be friendly, not friends, with other exes or guys I had hooked up with. My mother taught me to value myself and my heart carefully. Do not waste it on those who do not value you. Don’t try to recreate the love and acceptance my father would not give me, no matter how desperate I was—that was unfair to others. So rarely giving my heart made doing so devastating when it blew up.
I saw Chris in a coffee shop many months later. Chris, the most intense and the most sensible of Joel’s friends. He did not snub me, but came up to say hello and make small talk.
Abruptly, he interrupted his own chatter with downcast silence. Then he looks at me, frowning. “He knows he shouldn’t have done it.”
I felt flush. I answered just as suddenly. “If he needs me, I’ll be there.”
Chris just smiled, touched my face.
“Where is he, Chris? Is he okay? Please tell me.”
“You care, don’t you? He’s not here. He’s in Europe. That’s all I can tell you.”
Chris walks away quickly as if he said too much, before I can tell him to say anything to Joel on my behalf.
I thought about what I said. It was true. But now he was somewhere else, no doubt with a different phone number and as elusive as mist. I suppose he’d know how to get me if needed. I did look for him. I did worry. I couldn’t find him and then I became afraid to try harder, that he would laugh at me; that my worst fears would be true.
But I heard nothing. And I did next to nothing, in the romantic sense. Danny did his best to prod me into it, but I had little interest. Not moping or longing, just not interested. At least, until I met Alex. The first man I had met that I had chemistry with in a big way, who awakened my dormant eroticism and feelings. And what happens when I meet Alex? Joel returned. As if he knew. As if he showed up before I got serious with Alex, so he could insinuate himself in my mind to prevent the relationship from solidifying.
While Gabriel was in his own misery, Joel was in the apartment he sublet, in the dark and sitting in a corner. He spent a lot of time thinking. The thinking was too much. He could have just sat in the dark forever reviewing his life and his choices.
He stayed in the city a little while longer. He had no idea how to handle this. What to say, what to do. He had never been in this situation of knowing he had hurt someone, but then he had never been in a real ‘love affair,’ as old-fashioned romantics might say. Not a teenage thing, an adult thing. He didn’t even realize he cared so much that he had hurt Gabriel until he walked away. He didn’t know how to rectify the situation except with humor, but no humor was available. He tried several times to think about saying something to Gabriel, but each time he felt a wave of what he imagined was Gabriel’s anger with him. He slowly understood what was happening, what had happened.
When he realized, he wanted to heal himself, and he couldn’t do it in the same city Gabriel was in—he’d always be looking for him. He went to Chicago and Las Vegas, where he was nearly killed in a situation one of his ridiculous friends set up. The danger of that brought him to more realizations. Forgetting was the hardest part. He couldn’t. He couldn’t move on. His friends across the country offered him a good deal of intoxicants, both literal and experiential. None worked and he stopped trying. He wondered if he’d be wandering the Earth forever trying to forget.
Other than the Vegas incident, he shut down everything to do with his former profession. He contacted people who liked his art and asked if they were interested in more. That was the only outlet that provided catharsis—one of Gabriel’s words. The people he contacted were interested and knew others. Sketches, paintings. He moved into other mediums and began to work hard. The harder he worked, the better. Time passed without really noticing. In the back of his mind he thought about going back to New York. And decided against it. Gabriel’s presence was too big to be in the same city. And if he couldn’t talk to him, then he couldn’t be in the same city. He’d have to accept the responsibility and forget about Gabriel.
Conversation–Gabriel and Joel
“What did you do in the two years when we weren’t together?”
Joel sits on the ottoman.
“Um…I guess the first thing was, I couldn’t stay here so I had to go somewhere else. You know I know people in different places. I was always good at that. I had some friends in Chicago. I went there for a few months. Chicago is a great place. It’s like a small town in some ways, and while I felt comfortable I didn’t know what to do. Some contacts there…they were kind of rich people…they knew me from before and I did some things.” He looks down, then back at me. I just nod. I don’t need to tell him it’s okay, I hope.
He goes on. “I just couldn’t stay. I felt all hollow inside. One of my friends told me that I might be depressed. Isabella was trying to sell some of my stuff, so I stayed in touch with her. She told me to watch out for depression. I thought maybe if I lost myself…I knew some people in Las Vegas. I went there next. The people I knew, they weren’t as good as my Chicago friends. They did stuff…drugs. You know I don’t do drugs.”
I nod again.
“But I tried. There were a couple days I don’t remember. I think they were afraid I overdosed. I don’t remember. But they got in trouble with some people, who showed up at a townhouse with guns. I jumped out of a second story window and left. I had my wallet, I left the rest of my things there. I rented a car and drove to New Mexico.”
He takes a deep breath, while I’m filled with adrenaline. “I don’t like places like New Mexico, but it was sparse. I felt like I could hide. Chris visited me for awhile. I got tested, because I was afraid, but I was lucky. One of the last times I contacted Veronica was to tell her. She told me to think about the path I was given.”
“That sounds like her.” But inside I’m shaking. If something had happened to him…I don’t want to show it, though. Guilt will just drive us apart. Care, not guilt, is important.
“I didn’t want to get between you and her. I felt like you’d need her more. So I thought if I left the country it would be far enough away from you. Chris and I went to Hawaii. I had some money. I never spent much, never wanted to. But I also knew I wasn’t going to go back to what I did. I just didn’t know what to do. But I couldn’t be near you.”
Hard to hear, but necessary to get past.
“I even went to Tokyo for a couple days. Then Europe. I figured Europe was far enough. I was bumming around, really. I worked on my art, that’s what Isabella said to do. It helped. I couldn’t stay in one place. London, Paris, Berlin. Didn’t matter. I tried really hard to be a different person, but I was always focused inward. And I would remember you telling me that Eastern religions tell you to focus out, and I’d get mad at you for being in my head.” He smiles.
I have to smile too, because the same thing happened to me with him.
“I started getting in touch for the final time with some…clients. To tell them I wasn’t doing this any more. And Jan wrote me back and told me he was sick. He asked me to visit him as a friend. He was always different, always special. I went there right away. And then I stayed.”
He reaches in his pocket for cigarettes. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I’m going to resist, though.”
“Good. I wouldn’t give you one.”
“Don’t think I couldn’t take one if I wanted.”
Joel looks wicked for an instant. “Try it. I have hidden skills.”
“Maybe later. I want you to go on.”
“I thought I could distract you. Okay. So, Jan, you know, he had money. Real money. Seriously. I only mention that because it’s in some way why he wanted me there. A lot of people wanted to get a part of him, even as he was dying. There’s something that money does to people, even good people. It’s like blood in the water to a shark…”
“I understand that. And he knew you aren’t like that.”
“Funny, huh?” He blows smoke. “I’m a prostitute. Prostitutes are all about money. Very mercenary, very manipulative. But he calls me.”
“I think you know you don’t fit the stereotype.”
“He might have anyway, even if I did, because of our friendship. But I didn’t ask him for anything. I always thought he was a good person, and I hated how some people were trying to get him to do this or that while he was fucking dying. He had a good lawyer and an assistant, they helped him. They were suspicious of me, which is okay. They should have been. But I ended up spending a year with him in Amsterdam.”
“You spent a whole year with him; I didn’t know.”
“It helped both of us. He was stronger than he thought, although I feel like he held on just for me sometimes. Because he wanted me to talk, and you know I don’t like to talk a great deal. But…he wanted to know about what I was doing, and about you.”
“He knew I was haunted by something. He gave me some good advice. He tried to teach me some things I didn’t know.”
I’m touched by that, since Dominic had done the same thing with me, almost furiously, as if he knew he’d die early.
“He’s why I came back. I stayed in his house, and did some more work. He wanted to see what I did, he wanted to know what I was thinking, and he cut through the bullshit. Just talk, he’d tell me. I don’t have a lot of time to seduce it out of you. That was funny.”
He goes back in his memory and feels both the beauty and the pain of the loss. “I wish he was still alive. I wish you could meet him, and that he knows everything is okay with me.”
I have to laugh, although I tear up a bit. “I know. I wish that every day, with Dom, that he could meet you. Maybe they both know. Maybe they both see they did good jobs, right?”
And then Joel received a message from one of his former clients, Jan. Jan was very ill and dying in Amsterdam. He was weak but still clear-headed, and wanted to see Joel, who he cared about very much. Clients can have relationships of sorts, but Jan was very different, a true friend, not just considering Joel a commodity. Joel cared for Jan as well. He immediately bought a ticket to Amsterdam.
When he arrived at Jan’s bed, Jan rallied to sit up and talk despite obvious pain. Joel spent a good deal of time ministering to him. Jan was a very particular man in his grooming and dress, and he could no longer be that way. But Joel got him dressed, combed his hair, shaved him, had him looking as close to normal as possible. Jan’s eyes showed how much this tenderness was appreciated. Jan was a man of wealth who knew many people; some were predators. Joel also kept the predators away from the room to make Jan’s days a peaceful and positive as possible—watching movies, reading books, getting flowers and music. He told Jan about his art, and Jan was excited on his behalf. He arranged for Joel’s few possessions, art materials, to be flown over and he bought him more so he could work while he was here.
They spent hours in the room, Jan sometimes holding his hand, sometimes watching Joel, who would work in the same room brilliant with sunlight. Jan drew much pleasure watching Joel’s projects taking shape. Then they would sit quietly together until Jan felt like talking.
“Tell me about him.”
Joel raised an eyebrow. Jan smiled. “The man you’re in love with.”
“No, I want to hear. Indulge me. I know you’re thinking of someone. You’re different, subdued. Plus he’s in your work. Whoever it is, you think of him often. I see it in the angels you create. The same man turns up all the time. You took care of him once too, didn’t you?” Jan knew Joel did not show his caretaker side to many. Only those he really trusted. No one who knew him casually would guess he had that part to his personality. Joel, for Jan’s sake—because Jan wanted to use his intellect and sensitivity—opened the memories painful because of the subsequent loss.
“He had bronchitis once. I was afraid it would become pneumonia. He kept working in spite of it; he got so pale he was nearly white. He passed out once while he was working—I was with him. He was following someone, to take pictures of the person having a secret meeting of some kind. He was in his car and just passed out. I got out and took the pictures he needed. Because he would never leave a job unfinished. Then I took him back home. I had a nurse friend come by and look at him. He was so out of it by then he had no idea what was going on. My friend gave me some good meds for him. He was in bed for a week. I took care of his clients, his cat. He was semiconscious for a few days. I made sure he was hydrated and clean and so on. I didn’t tell him afterward about all of it because….”
“You didn’t want him to lose dignity.”
“Yes.” Joel nods. “He didn’t, with me.”
“When he was better, I still helped him in the shower and things like that.”
“Was he worth it?”
“Of course he was. If you knew him you’d understand. So you’ll have to take my word for it.”
“No, you have to tell me. I can’t meet him, Joel. Not in person. So I need to meet him through you. Because he’s special enough to have captured your heart.”
So Joel told him. How they met. The story of the club from Joel’s perspective. Joel liked to have isolation, either alone or in a crowd who wouldn’t bother him. The bartender friend who let him hang out. Working on his drawing, but getting the urge to see who came in, as the vibes in the room were disrupted. Watching Gabriel move around the club, smiling to himself as he struck out repeatedly with the Goths. Knowing he’d come over to the bar eventually. Wanting him to do so. Drawn to him before he even came over. Suddenly he was there staring at Joel’s sketch with fascination. When he looked up to see Joel watching him, Joel felt a connection that had never happened before. It scared him. He was surprised at the positiveness and lack of guile Gabriel had. How pleased he was to be asked to paint the mandala. The amount of work he put into it—he didn’t tell Gabriel half even of what he researched. Having spent most of his early life in a library, he knows how to research.
He was unnaturally anxious to see how Gabriel would be when he contacted him again. And he kept getting surprised. He expected Gabriel to be casual or even indifferent—but he was genuinely happy to see Joel. Being asked out wasn’t a surprise. Joel has been taken to incredible restaurants in New York and in Europe—the Chinese restaurant Gabriel thinks was very good was okay, not great. It was the intention behind it—to talk to him rather than just a reward for or a formality before sex. Joel kept seeing a real interest in his eyes—for him. Not just lust, but interest, and affection. Joel’s previous romantic interests were usually as fly by night as he, and often having something strongly defensive in them. The chemistry he felt with Gabriel tested that defensiveness.
Particularly during sex. He wanted Gabriel to be overwhelmed, enraptured, however one might put it. And he was, but he also stopped to do this slow kissing thing—Joel had never met a man who liked to kiss as much and in such varying levels of intensity and tempos. That strange little human gesture. So comforting and so intimate depending. Joel found himself giving into the sensitivity, as if Gabriel was literally releasing him somewhat with each kiss. He forgot who he was, what he wanted, what he worried about, and just felt. It was a moment of ecstasy, and when he realized it, he was frightened.
But Gabriel was too. He covered it with humor, and being very kind and solicitous and affectionate. But he was scared Joel would leave. “I didn’t know what to do.” Joel finds himself talking about this out loud. “I was afraid that being that drawn to someone—he could hurt me. He could make me love him, and crush me, laugh at me.” Joel felt like two people that weekend—one who was in a sense cheering Gabriel on—recognizing what he was doing, wanting to tell him it was okay, he wanted to stay there too—and the other who wanted to run before the game changed, the other face appeared, the other shoe dropped, the first time he would be angry, ranging, abusive.
But it didn’t happen. Yet, how can a day and a half tell you anything? He started following Gabriel after he left that weekend, which Gabriel would never know was just as hard for him to do. He briefly hated himself for not trusting. He couldn’t be here as a trick of fate, he had to be a reward, a smile from the gods to prove Joel was an okay person. To find out, he had to watch him—what he did during the day, how he interacted with people, what his face was like when his guard was down. Joel was fascinated and encouraged by watching him smile and wave at babies, petting dogs, going to that little Buddhist temple down the block, looking at movies and Jazz CDs in the stores on St. Marks. He watched Gabriel working—following other people, researching things in courts, observing people. He saw him be sad as well—staring off into space. That’s when he wanted to let him know he was there. Gabriel went to dinner with some Puerto Rican guy—tough in a different way than Gabriel. A bond between them, but not sexual. They were talking about something personal—Gabriel looked melancholy again. Joel could not know he was talking about him, but he felt it. Time to go back. Life was worth taking a chance.
Jan has to rest for awhile. Then he wants to hear more, as Joel helps him eat. Joel explains the relationship and how sometimes he left Gabriel’s presence to do his own thing, and how when he’d return, expecting outrage or indifference, he had acceptance and comfort instead. How he became okay with that, but had difficulty imagining it could last. Sooner or later something would happen, and he couldn’t be abandoned again. It never happened that way, and in fact Joel became confident and fulfilled by adapting some of Gabriel’s qualities. But he was so afraid of being hurt. Of the loving person turning into the abuser. He couldn’t bring himself to depend on someone so deeply. So in a sense, he did what he did as almost tempting fate to bring on a self-fulfilling prophecy. If he had had previous good relationships, he might have worked out that part of his personality.
Jan nods. Especially when Joel recounts the last words Gabriel said to him, and then what Chris told him later that Gabriel said—that he was there if Joel needed him.
“You didn’t expect that. You thought at worst he’d be mad about the sexual aspect. You didn’t trust him enough that his love was real.”
Joel says nothing.
“You don’t value yourself enough, Joel. You never did. He does value you. He would not have spoken to Chris that way if he didn’t.”
Joel’s shrug was one of misery. It’s too late now to matter, his body language says.
Jan’s weak, thin hand grasps Joel’s for a moment. He squeezes his hand to make Joel look at him. “You know you can rectify this don’t you?”
Joel just stares at him.
“Your life, Joel, screwed you over. You never had a good chance to make the mistakes we all make at first. Some never learn, but that doesn’t matter. Listen to me. All you have to do is apologize. Go to him. Let him explain how hurt he was. Ask what you can do together to build trust again.”
Joel turns away for a moment. He doesn’t want to cry in front of Jan. “I don’t think he would.”
“You don’t describe people in an idealized manner. So by your description of him, he’s a good man, not the kind to spurn you. He surely sounds sensitive, more than most. He may be hurt. He may be angry and lash out. You may be angry at first too. That’s what happens. You have to learn to be an adult and move past it. Show him you’re there for him. He’ll realize you mean it, he’ll listen.”
Joel looks back at Jan, who seems almost revitalized with his thoughts spoken aloud. “I’m sorry I can’t tell you everything to do, but remember—saying you’re sorry and meaning it goes a long way—most people aren’t willing to admit they’re wrong. Ask him to tell you what he needs, and follow that lead. You don’t like to talk much, but you’re going to have to—he needs to know what you’re thinking.” Jan grips Joel’s hand again. “Go back. I was never sure if love really existed or not, but I think it can. It’s rare enough to make the effort, regardless of how you distrust it. Go back and connect with him again. Don’t give up. You’ll know when you see him again if you have a shot. If you see he feels for you, you have a shot. And if you do, take it. Don’t get discouraged.”
Joel stayed in Amsterdam until Jan passed away, in peace. While he stayed with Jan, he ran across stories about Gabriel and the incident at the funeral, Teresa’s funeral. He was sad about Teresa, who he had met while she was in the City on leave. He then saw that Gabriel had been attacked in his neighborhood. The fact that Gabriel held his own against three street toughs made him smile. But he worried about Gabriel. Something about what was happening wasn’t right. He felt this was the impetus to go back and see if he could help. He packed his art works and flew back to New York after contacting a friend who was out of state for the rest of the year and maybe longer, to sublet his place.
His instincts were still good. He showed up outside the building minutes before Gabriel arrived. Gabriel looked a little shocked at seeing him—he’d never admit it—but when Joel got up and went to him, the hug was real as it ever was. Gabriel did not hesitate to hug him, and he was not a fake hugger and would not touch anyone he did not like. That was always a strong distinguishing trait with him. The embrace told Joel what he needed to know. In their subsequent conversation, which had all kinds of hidden undertones, Joel was energized. Yes, Gabriel was angry. His words got biting and pointed; and then he was immediately guilty over it—no poker face with him. Just as Jan said. Joel was pleased that he had learned something from Jan, and that he could use Jan’s advice rather than get discouraged. He was still angry himself over some aspects of Gabriel’s habits and tactics that got on his nerves. But it was not enough that he couldn’t live with it.
Gabriel said he wasn’t going to get back together with Joel. Joel felt like that might change because the feelings were clearly there. His words did not match his eyes. It would take time and was complicated by the appearance of Alex. Even worse, Danny liked Alex and Danny had ‘issues’ with Joel from the start. Danny and Gabriel were closer than brothers. Joel did not hate Danny; he appreciated how much Danny cared about Gabriel. He knew Danny had a set idea about him that was wrong. Gabriel, however, disliked other people trying to tell him what to do to the point of mania. Since Danny and Jim didn’t want him to work on this case, he’d keep working on the case no matter what. Joel could only help with that, since like Gabriel he was used to being an outsider and going against logic. It also showed Gabriel the bond between them.
Joel is not a sexually jealous person by long experience. But he felt this for the first time, knowing that Gabriel was building a relationship with Alex, and that Alex was not only an insider, but very successful at it. This was painful and would have been the reason Joel could give up on his quest. He tried his best not to show that to Gabriel, but every time Gabriel left to be with Alex it was so hard. He wished Jan was around to give him advice. How do you compete with a rival? How do you make yourself more attractive? What is the etiquette about that? He didn’t know, just as he didn’t know how to repair the relationship outside of Jan’s advice. What kept him going was the conviction that no one Gabriel met would have the same intense connection they did. No one. This was true, because all of the past two years disappeared when they embraced.
In spite of vowing not to do it anymore, he followed Gabriel to get the feeling for what he was doing. The investigation became an obsession with Gabriel, and it opened the door to serve a unique purpose—for Joel to prove himself. Which happened despite the case nearly killing them both, twice or more, due to Ethan Nelson, crazy motherfucker and troubleshooter for the Tertullian Society. This was one time in which Joel ran up against someone better than he at following people secretly, and far more dangerous. But when Gabriel showed up at that warehouse, Joel could only feel an inner peace that their bond was still there. Being there is the unarguable character trait of love; Alex’s insider status prevented him from realizing how important that was to Gabriel.
In the shock and awe of almost being blown up, they almost became intimate again. If anything convinced him to go on, that did. It wasn’t just sex, which Gabriel took seriously. It was giving in to the bond between them. Gabriel got angry again, at the memory linked to Joel’s last mistake, he knew. But the feelings stayed in spite of the anger. Gabriel was concerned for him, protective of him, let him in his apartment, his dominion, his cave. He let him handle his most precious possession, Archie. Gabriel let him watch over him when he came back from D.C. in shock and exhaustion, and after he rescued Joel from Nelson he took care of Joel in turn. Even after that case was over, he never refused Joel entrance to the apartment, even when he was irritated or busy. He wouldn’t do that with anyone else, even the sainted Danny. Gabriel needed a lot of alone time. He would hide when he was mad or depressed, but he wouldn’t hide from Joel. Joel tested him on that. It could be three in the morning, it could be three times a day; Gabriel could be sick, working, angry, depressed—but he never refused to see Joel or answer his calls or emails. And Joel knew Gabriel still had desire for him; the passion that used to erupt between them so suddenly and explosively. A passion that healed both their neuroses and made them whole. It was clear in his affection, his expressions, his allowing Joel to push his boundaries, and even his reluctance to be physically close—because when he was, he would unconsciously touch Joel—on the hand, the arm, the back… and he’d seemingly forget he had a ‘boyfriend.’
And meeting Alex? He wasn’t a bad person, by any means. Less neurotic by a mile. Intellectually sophisticated, liked cats—that would have been a deal-breaker for Gabriel—and as all who knew him well, developed love for Gabriel that expressed itself as over-protectedness. Gabriel appreciated love but did not want to be treated as a fragile treasure; he wanted to be respected for his mind, his judgment—that which his father had so maligned in his youth. Alex did not spend a moment thinking he was not good enough or perhaps should be concerned over his effect upon Gabriel, who is a wholeheartedly good person, despite his assumption he was a loner badass.
Joel had spoken on the phone to Alex once; the conversation was not good under the circumstances—a work-related emergency that Gabriel didn’t want Alex to know the details of. When they ‘met’ as it were, in person, Joel knew he could have turned the situation ugly, and made Alex look bad. Alex thought he could outwit Joel, but their experiences built different persons. The outsider and the insider. The outsider can’t be outwitted, because the outsider knows how the insider thinks, which can’t happen vice versa. But that was a nuclear option. What Joel wanted was Gabriel to come to him on his own without tricks.
And that happened, as Alex miss-stepped seriously and propelled Gabriel out of town. Very sad to some, and Gabriel might have acted in haste. But Hell no, Joel wasn’t going to let Alex have another chance. In Rochester, their partnership again saved each other in extreme danger. Whereupon afterwards Gabriel initiated the intimacy again, with ferocity that surprised Joel, who was rarely surprised. He had dug in for the long wait, patient with planting seeds for the future. But he was confronted with Gabriel’s rush of emotions and romanticism. Joel was a little scared of that. Romanticism was Gabriel’s Achilles, and if Joel was an unethical person, he could have hurt Gabriel terribly by manipulating that effect.
But he was not. He would never. His fear was that Gabriel would ‘come to his senses’ by figuring the intimacy was due to extreme circumstances, and go back to the rival because that was the logical action. Joel was not the logical choice.
Love of course, as Woody Allen suggested, is not logical. The heart wants what it wants.
If Joel was sorry for the current situation, it was only that he did not try sooner before Gabriel met Alex. But then, he wouldn’t have had the benefit of Jan’s advice and might never have come back without Jan’s encouragement. It’s now everything Joel can do not to try to spend 24 hours a day around Gabriel; to keep the reawakened passion, the constant affection that’s part of Gabriel’s nature, the look in his eyes when he sees Joel, the smile at his presence. But he has to allow the space, ironically enough considering how he had lit in and out of Gabriel’s presence during their first six months or so, leaving without word, coming back casually. He understood what Gabriel must have been feeling during that time. The space is to build, to figure out how to live together, how to make it work.
Gabriel’s encouragement about his art is all the more precious because he doesn’t know about the situation with money. Because Jan had left Joel money. Joel had no idea that had happened, but the attorney spoke to him after Jan died. This was a shocking sum of money—more than Joel would expect to make in a lifetime as a low-key artist. He did not tell Gabriel, but has to at some point. He wanted to take care of him, strangely like Alex wanted to. Gabriel would feel funny about that—he struggled so hard to be a success in his profession. Money was a volatile element, like lava. Joel did not want it to be a weapon or a barrier.
This page updated 7/30/2017
Copyright Alex Fiano 2012-2017